Cool Dhoni douses Windies fire

Skipper's unbeaten 45 seals India's fourth win after pacemen restrict the Caribbeans to 182

Cool Dhoni douses Windies fire

This World Cup had thrown up plenty of high-scoring matches already but there have been some low-scoring thrillers as well whenever the curators have laid out bowler-friendly surfaces.

New Zealand and Australia played out a gripping game in Auckland with pace and swing holding sway a few days ago, and on Friday, India and the West Indies were involved in a tense encounter with the pace bowlers having a field day here on the pacy, bouncy WACA.

Indian bowlers did exceedingly well to restrict the West Indies to 182 all out in 44.2 overs with pacers Mohammad Shami (3/35), Umesh Yadav (2/42) and Mohit Sharma (1/35) causing most of the damage upfront. But for skipper Jason Holder’s innings (57, 64b, 4x4, 3x6) against the run of play, West Indies would have been shot out for a sub-100 total.

The modest target, however, assumed gargantuan proportions as the Windies’ pacemen gave India a taste of their own medicine with some serious fast bowling. While cameos kept flowing through the innings, West Indies stayed in the game picking up wickets at regular intervals.
If India ever needed the clam presence of MS Dhoni in the middle it was on this day, and the skipper didn’t disappoint a large Indian gathering with a workmanlike innings. Dhoni’s unbeaten 45 (56b, 3x4, 1x6) took India to 185 for six in 39.1 overs for a four-wicket win; their fourth consecutive win also attested their berth in the quarterfinals.

While there was plenty of assistance for the bowlers by way of pace, bounce and some early swing, the batsmen from either side didn’t help their cause by resorting to strokes that ideally should have been kept in cold storage.

That said, the Indian pacers were positively good; fast, aggressive and relentlessly accurate. They had given a good account of themselves in the previous three matches, but they could have surprised even the staunchest of their believers with a bowling show that was at once hostile and unsettling.

In one of the finest exhibition of fast bowling in one-day internationals, Shami and Yadav worked up good speed, generated disconcerting bounce and left Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith bewildered.

Returning to the pack after skipping the UAE game to rest his injured left knee, man of the match Shami led the charge with incisive, probing deliveries for which Gayle and Smith had no answer as the ball raced past the bat times without number. And if the ball wasn’t beating the outside edge, it was whizzing past the heads of the ducking and swaying batsmen.

Holder may have thought of putting India through a different challenge as the defending champions had chased only once, and that too a 103-run target against the UAE, before this game but the Caribbean batsmen weren’t quite prepared for the pace test by India.

With the pitch offering good bounce and carry, Shami and Yadav relished the conditions. Shami was the pick of the bowlers again but Yadav was the quickest, clocking up to 148 kmph.

While Gayle looked clearly out of his comfort zone not only because he was up against some high quality bowling but also because his movements were restricted due to a stiff back. He denied quite a few singles and it had an effect on Smith who went for a cut that was not on.
 Later when he top-edged an attempted pull, he kept watching the ball which fell short of Mohit at mid-on. The alert fielder relayed the ball to non-striker’s end and Kohli, who backed up quickly, outran Marlon Samuels, who had ended up at striker’s end, to clip the bails.

Perhaps, upset with himself, Gayle, who was grassed twice on a day when India spilled at least three chances, went on the offensive but his onslaught lasted all too briefly. Dinesh Ramdin dragged the first ball he faced on to stumps off Yadav while a brief resistance from Jonathan Carter and Lendl Simmons ended with the departure of the latter, again to a miscued pull.

Carter followed him soon with his sweep off R Ashwin finding the safe hands of Shami in the deep. Andre Russell was impatient but Holder played a responsible knock to shore up the total. Coming in to bat at No 9, the right-hander played himself in before launching an attack.

Showing few signs of discomfort against pace and spin alike, he came up with some clean, lusty blows for his second fifty in as many innings. But it wasn’t good enough to stop the Indians on their track.           

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